On the Road to Literacy - Davie County Invests in Letterland
Recently we were lucky enough to get in touch with the Mebane Foundation and discuss the brilliant work they have been doing in partnership with Davie County Schools (DCS) in North Carolina.
Supported by a $2.5 million grant from the Mebane Foundation, DCS launched DavieLEADS (Literacy Empowers All in Davie to Succeed) in April 2017. This five-year early literacy initiative aims to improve kindergarten readiness and to increase the percentage of students reading proficiently by the end of third grade. We are delighted that Letterland has been at the very core of this exciting initiative.
Jeanna B. White, writer for the Mebane Foundation, has kindly written a guest blog post that summarises her articles on Davie County’s experience with Letterland.
Letterland Becomes Key Component of DavieLEADS
By Jeanna B. White
When Larry Colbourne, president of the Mebane Foundation, and representatives from Davie County Schools began holding roundtable discussions to determine ways to move the needle in early childhood literacy, they quickly recognized the value of Letterland and decided to revitalize its usage. DCS had begun using this innovative literacy program in 2004; but over time, materials wore out or were lost and newer teachers were not trained in the methodology.
The program quickly became an essential piece of DavieLEADS. From 2016, the Mebane Foundation provided Letterland materials, software, and professional development for Pre-K to 2nd-grade classrooms in Davie County.
“We already knew Letterland was working well in the pockets in which it was being used so we wanted to make sure that everyone had the updated materials, everyone had all of the training, and we expanded it to second grade.”
- Jennifer Lyde, Director of Curriculum and Instruction, the Mebane Foundation
Read all of Jeanna’s articles on DavieLEADS here.
Letterland Really Works!
In October 2017, I was lucky enough to attend my first Letterland parade! There were Kicking Kings and Quarrelsome Queens, Zig Zag Zebras and Red Robots when Pinebrook Elementary School’s kindergarteners dressed up as their favorite Letterland characters.
The costumed cuties sang each letter character’s song and made its sound and hand motion, demonstrating their growing literacy development for the dozens of family members and friends who turned out for Letterland Day.
“I love Letterland! It is the most comprehensive, most effective, most kid-friendly way to teach phonics. When you hear the word phonics, you think “ugh”. But this program is so multi-level, so multisensory, how better to teach five-year-olds than with music and dancing and pictures and games? They just love it! They get so excited about it!”
- Marianne Stein, kindergarten teacher
“It is developmentally appropriate for all students no matter where they are in reading. Letterland allows them to connect the sound to a letter before they even know it is a letter, so a lot of them know their sounds and are ready to read before they even realize that.”
- Emily Moore, kindergarten teacher
Read Jeanna’s full article on the Letterland parade here.
Using Letterland for the Littlest Learners
Last month, following the success that Davie County was seeing throughout schools all across the district, the Letterland program was expanded to include half-day faith-based programs.
As the opening notes of the Letterland theme song began to play, fifty excited preschoolers dressed as their favorite Letterland character began to march in a slow circle around the churchyard. Annie Apple led the parade followed by Bouncy Ben, Clever Cat, and all of their fellow Letterland characters.
The students in Mocksville’s First United Methodist Church’s half-day preschool program were celebrating Letterland Day and the completion of the entire Letterland program, from Annie Apple to Zig Zag Zebra. Educators at the pre-school were eager to explain how much the students had learned thanks to this partnership with the Mebane Foundation.
“The kids, the grownups, everyone enjoys Letterland, but most importantly, the kids are learning.”
- Alison Gupton, Preschool Director
“I love the kinesthetic aspect of having a hand motion with each letter that allows children who can’t sit still to move. Letterland is the total package.”
- Sherrie Robinson, Pre-K teacher
One preschooler was happy to demonstrate what his teachers were talking about!
“I love Clever Cat and Zig Zag Zebra, they are my favorite Letterland characters. I learned them from Mrs. Deitre.”
- Lucas Crotts
Lucas quickly went on to name every character and letter in the alphabet and made its sound and showed each hand motion.
Read Jeanna’s full article on the using Letterland for Pre-K here.
Training and Coaching
The DavieLEADS grant also funds two literacy coaches who offer teachers on-site professional development and support, including assistance with Letterland. Consultants from Letterland have further enhanced professional development by doing observations in classrooms and offering lesson modelling, feedback, and coaching sessions. The additional support demonstrates the significance of the program and will help teachers maximize the program’s potential for their students
Last March, Cindy Cooke and Reba Walden, both Letterland trainers, travelled to each of Davie County’s elementary schools for the first time to model lessons for teachers from kindergarten through second grade and to answer questions about best practices using the program. Teacher assistants stepped in to cover classes so that all of the teachers could participate.
“If there is a problem, we have people to go to. When you feel better about something you are going to do better, you are going to teach it to the best of your ability.”
- Bridgett Bailey, first grade teacher
Read Jeanna’s full article on the Letterland training and coaching here.
A huge thank you to Jeanna for writing this blog post and letting us know about the great work that the Mebane Foundation and Davie County Schools have been doing together. It is exciting to see so many teachers diving head first into the wonderful world of Letterland! We look forward to hearing updates about DavieLEADS and their progress in improving early years literacy across Davie County.